Cheerleading Is Not a Sport

It’s official. Despite apparent physical activity, cheerleading is some sort of club, not a sport. According to an article by Stacy Teicher Khadaroo in the Christian Science Monitor:

Cheerleading can be athletic and competitive, but it doesn’t count as a sport when universities are counting up male and female athletes to comply with Title IX, a federal gender-equity law.

That was the conclusion in a class action suit on behalf of female athletes at Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

U.S. District Judge Stefan Underhill determined that cheerleading doesn’t really count: “The activity is still too underdeveloped and disorganized to be treated as offering genuine varsity athletic participation opportunities for students.”

Check out this Associated Press segment about the ruling:

The cheerleading advocates quoted here attempt to present this ruling as some sort of horrible blow to their beloved, respectable activity. This is not really what’s going on here. While it’s sort of obvious that cheerleading isn’t a sport (the essence of the activity, after all, consists of encouraging fans to get excited about people participating in actual, unambiguous sports, either football or basketball; if cheerleading is a sport so is the band) the real trouble at Quinnipiac had to do with Title IX and women’s volleyball.

Quinnipiac, a Connecticut school anxious to save money in the tough economy, decided to eliminate its track and golf teams. Along with this, it planned to kill women’s volleyball. But, Quinnipiac reasoned somewhat tortuously, it was still in compliance with Title IX (the federal law mandating, among other things, that the percentage of female athletes is proportional to the percentage of female students) because competitive cheering was, look at that, a varsity sport. In March 2009 Quinnipiac elevated cheerleading to a sport. The 30 cheerleaders were now bona fide varsity athletes, technically.

Cheerleading’s new status didn’t happen because the school had some great respect for women’s competitive cheering, it happened because the school wanted to save some cash by cutting out a real sport, women’s volleyball. Underhill also found that in order to look to be in compliance with Title IX Quinnipiac, “is… continuing to [deceptively] deflate the size of its men’s rosters and inflate the size of its women’s rosters.”

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Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer